What does it mean to be human in the Age of Technology? How can we understand how technology works and what its effects on human beings are, both personally and culturally, to bring in balance the political, social, and economic spheres of life?
Those are two key questions Gary Lamb, co-director of Hawthorne Valley’s Center for Social Research (CSR), is trying to answer through his current Ethical Technology Initiative. This project serves as a culmination of the many different jobs and interests Gary has had over his diverse career, which has included building construction, farming, carpentry, high school teaching, manufacturing, fundraising, magazine publishing, and more.
Gary likes to say he is “well-traveled” in eastern New York State. He grew up in the small Adirondack town of Mineville and studied civil technology at SUNY Delhi and mathematics at SUNY Stony Brook before completing two years of alternative service duty as a conscientious objector at Albany Medical Center during the Vietnam War.
In the 70s, Gary also studied at Emerson College in England, and during that time, first came to know of Hawthorne Valley through a friend. Then in 1986, he moved to Columbia County and began working at Hawthorne Valley Farm Store.
“I was working at Weleda in Spring Valley, NY, as their production manager,” Gary said. “That work and coming to learn of Rudolf Steiner’s threefold social ideas really sparked my interest in economic practice and theory. Everything I’ve learned about economics has been grounded in practical experience, and I felt the one gap in business knowledge I had was in retail, so when I saw the manager position at the Farm Store open up, I took it.”
After holding that position for seven years, Gary had the opportunity to start a new initiative at Hawthorne Valley tied to his deeply-held interests in educational freedom and funding. Under that program, the Center for Social and Environmental Responsibility (CSER), Gary lectured around the United States, wrote books, and ran a scholarship program to help families in the Albany area to attend the private school of their choice.
When that wound down, Hawthorne Valley Waldorf School was in need of a development director. Gary took up the job, teaching high school economics in the school at the same time. Following a two-year stint as the HVWS admission’s director, he made a final job-transition within Hawthorne Valley to co-direct the Center for Social Research, a refocus of CSER, with Christopher Schaefer.
Chris’s work at CSR currently concentrates on writing books and local investments, while Gary pursues issues surrounding technology. Gary’s work has included publishing articles and books, lecturing, and convening workshops with diverse stakeholders in education to generate constructive dialogue. Through a series of projects on education, he was led to see technology as one of the issues most affecting personal and social life today. To look into these challenges more deeply, Gary launched the Ethical Technology Initiative in 2017.
“There’s a push to digitize education, and while technology in and of itself isn’t bad, unless we deal with how to ethically integrate it into life, then I don’t believe we can retain the most important aspects of being human,” Gary said. “My hope for this project is that we will be able to see what parts of humanity we don’t want to lose to technology and to identify steps to take to ensure technology is being used for the benefit of humanity, and not the other way around.”
To learn more about the Ethical Technology Initiative, click here.